Council workers study reforms

TWEED Shire council employees massed at one of the largest union meetings in recent years yesterday to discuss the Howard government's controversial industrial relations reforms.

State president of the United Services Union which covers many council workers, Steve Birney, and other union bosses addressed several hundred members his union, the Local Government Engineers Association and the Development and Environmental Professionals' Association (the health surveyors union) in the Murwillumbah Civic Centre yesterday afternoon.

With so many members from the largest employer in the Tweed, the meeting was the largest union gathering in the district for years.

Mr Birney, himself a longtime Tweed Shire Council employee and local union delegate, said the meeting was intended to highlight the drastic consequences of the reforms which unions felt would put industrial relations back more than 60 years.

He warned many of his members on about $500 a week could not afford the "gradual downsizing of wages" which would result.

He warned many would also lose their current job security.

While it was hoped - but not certain - that his members' award conditions and rates would not be affected until a new award was due to be negotiated in 2007, lit was important, he said, that they understood what was at stake.

He vowed his union would continue to fight the reforms right up until the 2007 election and wanted people to start discussing the effects now.

"The campaign at the moment is to get out into the community and get people talking about this," he said.

"We want people to start thinking about it and talking about it at home".

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